Singapore needs to be ready for worst-case scenario: Chan Chun Sing

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing was chairing a dialogue session organised by government feedback unit Reach and Lianhe Zaobao.
Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing was chairing a dialogue session organised by government feedback unit Reach and Lianhe Zaobao.

US-China row no longer just about trade; many competing interests between the two powers

Among the various challenges facing Singapore, the ongoing US-China trade war was foremost on the minds of many participants at a public forum held yesterday.

But it is no longer just a trade row, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, who chaired the session, and there are many competing interests between the two powers - such as in technology and currency.

"We are concerned with how the global trading system, the global digital economic system is coming together, or is being fragmented," Mr Chan said at a dialogue organised by government feedback unit Reach and Chinese broadsheet Lianhe Zaobao.

"Because for Singapore, we need to make preparations for the worst-case scenario whereby if the world fragments - be it in the trade, production, or digital space - we will have to ask ourselves, how can we overcome these challenges and play a constructive role, a positive part in this," he added.

The dialogue, held at the Asian Civilisations Museum and attended by about 150 participants, was part of Reach's efforts to gather public feedback on the recent National Day Rally.

Mr Chan told reporters that while many participants saw the trade war as a challenge, there were also others who saw it as an opportunity for Singapore to position itself, carefully, to ride the waves of change.

He said he was encouraged by this enterprising spirit, which was demonstrated in other areas of yesterday's discussion, such as in climate change and energy usage.

 
 
 
 

"If we can overcome the energy challenge in Singapore, just as how we overcame the water challenge in Singapore for the last 50 years, then we can open up many more new opportunities, create many more new industries and new jobs for the next generation."

He said it was also encouraging that participants understood that the way economic resources are distributed in Singapore is a demonstration of its value system.

Underlying the various initiatives announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Rally were two simple messages, Mr Chan noted.

"One, we will always give priority to take care of our weakest, our oldest and our youngest. That is a testimony of the kind of values and social compact we have in Singapore, and it is something that we can be proud of."

The second, Mr Chan said, is that a long-term perspective is taken to tackling the challenges, from climate change to caring for the elderly. "We must make sure we leave behind a better system, a stronger system, for the next generation to pin their dreams upon," he said.

Participants also talked about the protests in Hong Kong. Mr Chan said: "We all wish Hong Kong well. We all wish they can resolve their differences."

He said some of the mistakes made in organising their society in their policies could happen here, if Singapore were not careful. "So I think we draw lessons from it... to make sure that we constantly evaluate our policies to make sure that they take care of our people well, that they are relevant to the times.

"But most importantly, as many (participants) said, is how we build that nexus between the people and the Government so that we solve problems together, we overcome challenges together," Mr Chan added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 25, 2019, with the headline 'S'pore needs to be ready for worst-case scenario: Chan'. Print Edition | Subscribe